HEIVA I TAHITI 2016 RESULTS ANALYSIS
The 135th Heiva i Tahiti 2016 was deemed the most spectacular yet as a record number of participants hit the 5000 mark with the participation of 11 Hura Tau groups, 9 in the Hura Ava Tau category and 21 traditional chanting groups competing for the ultimate prize. The evolution of ‘Ori Tahiti has also come to fruition as the dance quality of each group and solo performances rose to the occasion to thrill audiences far and wide. Tahiti Dance Online looks back at this amazing event by evaluating the winning groups and analysing those who missed out.
Two days after the Heiva 2016 results were announced local television station Polynésie Premiere released a poll indicating the public’s preference for the podium. They asked people to vote online for their favourite group and then attributed a percentage to each group based on accumulated votes. The podium for the Hura Tau category seems to correlate with the judges decision by placing Hitireva on top with a majority of 38.30%, Hei Tahiti second with 26.60% and O Tahiti E third with 9.40% of the votes. However in the Hura Ava Tau category pubic opinion differs with Hei Rurutu coming out on top with 30.47%, Tamari’i Vaira’o at 22.68% and 2016 winners Tahiti ia Ruru-tu noa a close third with 21.08% of the votes. A poll posted two days before the results by Tahiti Nui Television (TNTV) asking fans to vote for their favourite Hura Tau group revealed a different story with Hitireva and Hei Tahiti maintaining their first and second place but with Toakura coming in third in front of O Tahiti E.
Polynésie Premiere’s Heiva i Tahiti 2016 poll
TNTV’s Heiva i Tahiti 2016 poll
By analysing both polls it becomes clear that Hitireva were the crowd favourites who eventually took out the Hura Tau title and Hei Tahiti coming in second. Public opinion seems to be divided in terms of the third place winners with one poll indicating that Toakura should have graced the podium and in another, Pupu Tuha’a Pae beating them by almost 5%.
So let’s take a closer look at the Hura Tau podium:
HITIREVA – 1st Place Madeleine Moua trophy
HITIREVA who won top honours in the Hura Tau category also won best traditional costume, best song compositions, best ote’a, best drumming creation and second in male solo which makes them the most decorated group of the event. Their theme ‘A tifa’i to’u hiro’a’ or ‘I weave my culture’ brilliantly written by famous theme author and ex-government minister Jacky Bryant was exquisitely executed from start to finish. Group leader Kehaulani Chanquy and her team of experts left no stone unturned by offering a performance with intricate choreography, an interesting and coherent story, ornate costumes and amazing dance capabilities that left audiences flabbergasted. The dance moves were very modern and interpretive of Kehaulani’s unique style and the thread that bound each dance sequence together started with the ‘nape’ rope that was used to lash our traditional sailing canoes (complete with a reenactment of a canoe construction scene with actual canoe parts) to the making of tapa cloth, the effect that missionary cotton had on ancient Tahitian society which was fittingly danced to the ‘pao’a hivinau’, a dance that originated from the first european encounters and then to displaying it’s modern use as ‘tifa’ifa’i’ (tahitian hand stitched blankets) in wedding ceremonies today as a symbol of binding love, to the confection of dance costumes using the pae’ore pandanus leaves and ending off with a very beautiful aparima encouraging all of us to weave ourselves into the fabric of our culture in the new millenium, all of which was danced to the sublime voice of number one Tahitian singer Teiva LC. A truly historical journey with a well thought out plan and a meticulously clever eye for detail. I think that most people, actually everyone, would agree that they whole heartedly deserved 1st place.
HEI TAHITI – 2nd place
HEI TAHITI was another crowd favorite this year winning 2nd place overall in the Hura Tau category and also taking out best floral costume, best aparima, best pa’oa/hivinau and third place in female solo. This year they chose to honour the orange picking festival with their theme ‘Na uta, na tua roa mai’ or ‘from the heart of our lands’ written by theme author Goënda REEA who chose to shed light on a tradition from the community of Punaauia where once a year, people climb up to the Tamanu plateau in the highlands to pick oranges, she also pays hommage to the guardian of the valley Tuatau. An unusual and modern performance that seemed to be quite insignificant compared to shows based on historical figures, however the fact that they chose to portray a more contemporary perspective added to the strength of their presentation and made us acknowledge our own recent history. The choreography was grandiose and each dance was different as they broke the traditional Heiva presentation pattern by offering 20 different dance sequences instead of the usual 8 which kept things extremely interesting to watch. This may set a trend for years to come as their Heiva performance will no doubt be remembered.
O Tahiti E – 3rd place
O TAHITI E, one of the most successful ‘Ori Tahiti groups of all time settled for third place overall this year with their theme ‘Tahiti ata ata noa’ or ‘Tahiti let’s just laugh’ written by professor of Tahitian language and culture Steve Chailloux who is also a rising social media star with his take on the evolution of the Tahitian language. Group leader Marguerite Lai has always been proud to present deeply significant performances at the Heiva that are often symbolic of cultural identity and as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the group, she wanted to bring back the essence of being Tahitian, that is, to be happy and fulfilled with one self in the face of crushing modern realities of aimlessness and dissatisfaction. The show itself was deemed ‘unusually traditional’ as the group are used to more innovative and new forms of expression but also very simple in its’ execution of such an abstract theme. With each dance the performance grew stronger as audiences were not bombarded with something intricately complicated (as most groups do) but on the contrary, were offered a refreshing and joyful outlook on Tahitian dance and culture reminiscent of the good old days. As the judges read out the results they made a point to mention that O Tahiti E’s place on the podium had been secured because of the ecstatic effect their performance had on the Tahitian public where for an hour, everybody forgot their troubles and were able to appreciate a light hearted jubilant show.
Toakura – Missed out on this year’s podium
One major group to miss out on the podium this year was TOAKURA despite winning best theme author and best ra’atira ti’ati’a (best leader) and attracting renowned dancers such as Johan Paheroo (best male solo 2014) and ‘Ori Tahiti icons Teruria Taimana, Vairani Drost and Teiki Cridland among others, they just fell short despite their well executed and intriguing program. Their theme this year was about ‘Purea te ‘apu a toto’ or ‘Purea and the bloody platform’ written by Tahitian poet Patrick Amaru that talks about Purea, a historical figure from the 1700 who caused a war because of her audacity and pigheadedness that left her people bathing in blood on a ceremonial platform she had erected for her first born son. A very morbid and ritualistic performance reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy that saw famous Tahitian choreographers Mateata Le Gayic and Moana’ura Tehei’ura develop a more serious and almost paganistic point of view to illustrate Purea’s story, complete with historically accurate interpretations from actors and a full on 3 storey built marae platform. The costumes were also very intricate, especially the floral component, and the use of props in dance sequences, such as the men dancing with stones and the women with war spears. Although the group is well known for its frequent use of historical themes, it appears that the judges this year favoured light heartedness and abstract compared to the traditional interpretation of past historical figures.
Now, let us turn to the Hura Ava Tau category:
Tahiti is Ruru-tu noa – 1st place Gilles Hollande trophy
TAHITI IA RURU-TU NOA won the Hura Ava Tau category after their first ever participation at the Heiva, a category that is reserved for up and coming amateur groups that dream of breaking into the Hura Tau big leagues . Group leader Olivier Lenoir is no stranger to the Heiva stage as he has been the face of many great groups before, such as O Tahiti E or Les Grand Ballet de Tahiti and decided to start his own group this year. Because of his reputation, he was able to attract an array of professional dancers with the majority hailing from Makau Foster’s famous Tamariki Poerani. The theme they chose to portray this year was the legend of Hiro and Tanemanu interpreted by author Simone Grand which tells a tale of disobedience and consequences with the main character played by none other than Asia Hammil who won best female solo in 2014. The performance was powerful and captivating right from the beginning as Olivier comes out standing on a full scale traditional Polynesian sailing canoe of which comes out a whale and then bird like creatures to reenact part of the legend. By the end of the show we were convinced that this was the group to beat as the level of performance was much higher than the rest due to the theatrical scenes put in place, the professionally made costumes and capabilities of their dancers and drumming band. It will be interesting to see this groups’ evolution in the future and how they fare competing with the likes of Hitireva and Hei Tahiti.
TAMARI’I VAIRA’O – 2nd place
© Maison de la Culture
TAMARI’I VAIRA’O who turned out to be the dark horse representing the district of Vaira’o managed to clench second place and their female soloist Tuiana Brodien also ended up being crowned best female solo, a tough task considering the high standard of female soloist performances this year. The group decided to interpret the legend of Maui, famous Polynesian demi-god who slowed down the sun, fished up the islands and defied the goddess of death but wanted to portray their own version of his story that is told by the elders of Vaira’o, mainly focusing on the way that Maui was placed among mere mortals and how he evolved and grew during his adolescence. However, the most inspiring performance came from solo female dancer Tuiana Brodien who was unexpected to win the main title as she did not feature among the big names of ‘Ori Tahiti but pulled off an amazing dance routine to take out the title. According to the Polynésie Premiere poll they were tilted to be ahead of winners Tahiti ia Ruru-tu noa by a feather. With Tuiana on their side they may just be able to pass the post in first place at their next Heiva participation.
Erai te toa no Avera – 3rd place
ERAI TE TOA NO AVERA or should we say ‘the group that came out of nowhere’ established in September 2015 on the island of Rurutu managed to take out 3rd place for their first Heiva participation despite public votes placing them second to last. Their male soloist Tinomana Poetai even came third in the male solo competition. Although many groups this year represented the Autsral islands such as Hura Tau group Pupu Tuha’a Pae or Hura Ava Tau group Hei Rurutu and even winners Tahiti ia Ruru-tu noa, Erai te toa no Avera was the only group who actually live on the island of Rurutu and group leader Igor Paparai had a vision to bring the youth of the island to experience the Heiva in Tahiti and compete in both the dancing and chanting sections to anchor them in their culture. The theme they chose to present this year is the story of ‘Tanetee’, a great warrior from the island of Rurutu. Their performance was markedly different as their interpretation was very much reminiscent of the Heiva in the outer islands, traditionally raw with a particular island charm and a total rejection of modern Tahitian dance trends , at one point they even had some of the men lying on the stage holding wooden penises, the group just basically stayed true to themselves which was why we believe they were able to secure the podium.
HEI RURUTU – The crowd favourite that never made the podium
HEI RURUTU was no doubt the crowd favourite according to the above poll but also because of their previous success at the Hura Tapairu competition and with their particular dance execution and costumes, everyone expected them to at least make the podium, but when the results were announced the audience were left asking questions. The theme they chose this year was the story of Ta’ema who strived to be the speaker representative of his village Avera in Rurutu, symbolic of their message aimed at youth to step up and become leaders in their own local communities. The theatrics were there, the choreography tilted towards the Hura Tau level, the men and women often danced separately but this did not take away from the overall impact of the performance and the show was appreciated by all. Although the top three groups were impressive, in this particular case, the debate could continue for yonder so we are left to imagine that the results would have probably been very very close.
In summary, the Heiva 2016 marks an new era of creativity and dance level across the board that has never been seen before. As ‘Ori Tahiti continues to evolve in the future, younger groups filter through offering us new insights into ourselves and our traditions whereas more established groups look back to the past for inspiration. An interesting phenomenon that makes the Heiva and Tahitian culture in general very fascinating to follow. Now that winning trends have been set and considering the exponential growth we’ve seen with ‘Ori Tahiti around the world, be sure to see the 2016 dance moves and styles recreated both in Tahiti and worldwide. This is why the judges work is imperative as they ultimately decide what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in terms of the direction that Tahitian dance will take in years to come. A heavy but humbling task that we often take for granted.
What we take away from this year’s festival is a sense of fulfillment and joy that our culture is alive and kicking but also a sense of caution as to where to go next, especially as the identity crisis phenomenon becomes more and more prevalent in modern society. The key is to be able to live in both worlds, local and global, but to truly dedicate yourself to knowing your culture, as knowing your culture, in the end, means knowing yourself.